Re­lease and re­ward Don’t get too ‘dres­sage-y’

Ev­ery­one tries to man­u­fac­ture the horses too much and make them go a cer­tain way, but then they never ac­tu­ally learn to go for them­selves’

NZ Horse & Pony - - Masterclass -

WATCH­ING DEVON warm up, Sean cau­tions her not to get overly ‘dres­sage-y’ and re­strict her horse too much in front to start (be­low). He gets Devon to ride some walk-trot tran­si­tions and is quick to cor­rect her when she pulls her horse into a frame.

“The first thing you started to do was get him in a head­lock,” he ob­serves. He tells Devon to vi­brate the in­side rein un­til her horse is hap­pily in a soft frame in walk, then re­lease the rein and move up into trot. “When he sub­mits, you soften up into trot and keep your hand nice and soft,” he ex­plains. “See – now you don’t have 50kg in your hand. A sec­ond ago, you were go­ing to have that 50kg for the whole trot­ting cir­cle.” It’s not a case of hav­ing no con­tact at all, says Sean, but just mak­ing sure you are soft when you need to be.

Sean also re­minds Devon not to drill her horse for too long. With young horses, he says, it’s im­por­tant to do a lit­tle bit of work and then give them a break; a lit­tle bit more work and then another break. “If you keep ham­mer­ing the same thing, some­times you end up go­ing for half an hour with­out re­ally get­ting it,” he ex­plains. “But it’s funny, if you stop and walk for five min­utes and then try again, you get it. Some­times when we get so de­ter­mined and try too hard the horse gets a bit con­fused and so do we! With the young ones you have to do lit­tle stints.”

With Devon’s softer hand, Sean is much hap­pier with the way Chez is go­ing. In­stead of fight­ing he’s just on the bit and re­laxed with his ears pricked, says Sean (above).

“He’s ac­tu­ally start­ing to move bet­ter in front – can you see that?” he ob­serves. “His shoul­der is able to work now you’re not stran­gling him. You want to en­cour­age him to go for­wards first and then work him, rather than stran­gling him.”

Af­ter some good, con­sis­tent trot work, Sean tells Devon to come back to walk, give her horse a pat, let him stretch his neck and ‘be a horse’.

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